The Propylaea in Athens is the gate and main entrance to the Acropolis, designed between 437–432 BC by Mnesicles. Nowadays, this ancient Greek site, which marks the era of high classics, is included in the UNESCO world heritage list and is considered to be one of the architectural landmarks of Athens.
First, it should be noted that Propylaea was common for the architecture of the Minoan period about 3700 years ago in Crete. It was also used by the Mycenaeans in the 14th century BC in Tiryns. In 5th–4th centuries, the huge Propylon was located at the sanctuary entrance in Olympia. However, the Propylaea of the Athenian Acropolis has better preserved and became world-known. It is located on the western side of the hill. The construction of it started in the age of Pericles in 437 BC. But in 431 BC, the construction works were ceased as there was a lack of funds during the Peloponnesian war.
The Old Propylon had been located here before the Propylaea was erected. The white pentelic marble was used as the construction material for this gateway. The design of Propylaea reflects the style of the neighbouring Parthenon. There were stairs leading here from it that were 80 m long and 10 m wide.
The Propylaea in Athens, Greece was a huge central building, divided into 3 parts by two rows of Ionic columns. A transverse wall divided the structure into eastern and western facades. Six Doric columns and one pediment were located in each of them. In addition, the structure had northern and southern wings. In fact, the internal rooms of the supplements were part of the initial project, which remained unfinished. It can be said that the building initially absorbed the Doric and Ionic styles. The architecture of Propylaea made it different from most structures of that time.
Many sculptures made the Propylaea look magnificent. A huge room was situated in its northern wing — the Pinacotheca (or picture gallery). The walls of this room were decorated with the pictures of famous artists. This part of the building was also used for dinner events. The right (southern) wing was smaller in its size. Scientists even believe that it was built only to create a sense of symmetry of the structure.
Acropolis was provided with 5 entrances due to the Propylaea. The pedestrians could use 4 of them, and a central one, of larger size, was intended for wheel transport. The inside arrangement of the building was no less impressive. For example, the roof inside was decorated with gold stars and palmettes on a blue backdrop. Although the beams are amazing here as well, because they are longer than those that were common for Greek architecture of that time.
And what a technology was used during the construction of this miracle! First of all, it should be considered that the area near the Acropolis is quite hilly, and there are no flat pieces of ground at all. That was why the architect of Propylaea had to take into account every millimetre of territory to build as rigid building as it could be, and moreover, with a roof of such kind. Now imagine! The craftsmen inserted curved short iron bars into the grooves of the marble beams under the roof in order to make the stone not to shift. And this was more than two thousand years ago! By the way, a similar technology is used today in the construction of skyscrapers.
Do you think these are all the unique features of the structure? You are wrong! In Ancient Greece, a big pedestal was situated in front of the Propylaea. It was made of grey marble and had a height of 10 metres. A sculpture of a Quadriga was standing on it — it was a chariot with four horses. Later, the statues of Antony and Cleopatra were placed here, which were destroyed by a hurricane in 31 AD.
The first attraction that greeted everyone at the entrance to the Propylaea is also worth mentioning. It was a huge 9-metre bronze statue of Athena Promachos. It was created by Phildias to commemorate the victory of the Athenians over the Persians. The statue of Athena was quite high and it could be noticed from the sea from the distance of 60 km.
For centuries, the building had served as a Byzantine Episcopal palace, a Florentine Palazzo, and the residence of the Turkish governor. In 1645, a lightning strike or possibly a gunshot led to a fire in the powder depot in Propylaea. As a result of it, the building suffered heavily. However, there restoration works have been constantly carried out here. They were aimed at restoring the structure to its former gorgeousness so that to make travelers admire the wonders of the attraction.
The reconstruction of the Propylaea was completed in 2009. The restorers reconstructed a part of the roof and created copies of the authentic capitals that had been adorning the attraction. They also corrected the problems caused by the reconstructions of the 19th century — they were endangering the safety of the ancient marble of which the structure is built.
The easiest way to get here is to go by metro. The “Acropolis” station is located on the red line and is next to “Syntagma”. You can also walk to the Propylaea. Just go along the central street of the capital up to the hill.